Does Your Life Need a Before and After?



I love before and after makeover shows.

The ones where the house is falling in and needs a new roof…where the family has been living in a shambles with electrical that doesn’t work and plumbing that’s shot. And then, with the Goliath help of a thousand man crew…the house is rebuilt from the foundation up in 7 days and every single room looks like Ty Pennington personally handled every detail…from the faucets to the throw pillows to the appliances to the perfectly positioned tulips on the lawn. And the family gets treated to an all expenses 7-day vacation in paradise, conveniently removed from all the mess and dust and frustration.

Or there’s the style shows. The one where Stacy and Clinton hand a $5,000 Visa card to a deserving woman who is frumpily stuck in the 80’s and in two whirlwind days she shops til she drops and ends up looking like Cinderella at the ball. She gets styled and coiffed and pitches the clothes that’ve been holding her back from the life of her dreams.

You can do it with weight too. Chris Powell, host of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition chooses a morbidly obese person to cajole, coach, cry with, train and coddle over the course of a year…usually resulting in at least a 100 pound weight loss. Then, Wal-Mart hands over a $50,000 gift card as a reward.

Life isn’t like this.

You don’t get a new house in a week.
You don’t makeover your closet or your personal style in two days.
And most of us don’t need to lose 100 pounds and certainly couldn’t do it in a year without Chris’ help.

Life is, well, much harder than they make it look.

We don’t have sponsors or TV production crews. We have to go to work and raise kids and squeeze eating and living in around all of it. It’s impossible to have a single focus like these shows make it seem. All magically wrapped up in a 60-minute vinette.

But what you do have to know is what direction you’re going. What do you want to do with your life? What does it look like now? What do you want it to look like after?

Ty isn’t standing in front of your house yelling ‘move that bus.’

Wal-Mart isn’t handing over any gift cards.

No one is doing your hair and make up. Heck, I even ran out of hair product this morning and no one rushed over a replacement.

Life is messy.

It took me 6 years of dating my husband before we said “I Do” (we’ve been married 31).

It took me 7 years to figure out that the chaos full-time work made for my family with 3 small children wasn’t worth it.

It took me 25 years to finish raising my three awesome kids…all the way fretting over what parts I was screwing up.

It took me almost a decade of writing before I considered myself ‘good enough’ to publish.

Good things usually take time. More than we want to give. More than we think we have.

We believe we’re going backward if we don’t see instant results. Just because you can drive through McDonalds and get dinner in less than 10 minutes doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good dinner.

Good things usually need to simmer.

The before and after shows still have things to teach us. They have a plan we can follow.

You have to know what you’re starting with. (The benchmark)

• You have to know where you want to go. (The journey)

• You have to know what success means to you. (The destination)

• You have to know what resources you might need along the way. (The tools)

• You have to know whose on the team and who isn’t. (The team)
When you know these key things, life seems simpler. You feel more content. You can stop wondering and worrying and overprocessing and obsessing. You can simply get to work. You’re on the path. Your path.

I’m suggesting you complete an Extreme Life Makeover. Your life is worth it. It’s a magical mosaic of a million tiny pieces…all coming together to form your days that in turn form your life.

Try this.

Write down what your life before looks like. Every single detail. All the parts. Your health. Your money. Your friends. Your work. Your relationships. Your spirituality. Your house. And the list goes on.

Then, write (or draw) what you want all the parts to look like. Where do you want to live? How much do you want to make? Who do you want to love? What or who do you need to let go? What kind of car do you drive?

Life makeovers are tough because unlike television, you can’t stop everything else and focus on one area. Life is swirling and it never stops.

Tomorrow marks my one-year fitness anniversary. I’m 51 and this is the first time that I’ve spent any concentrated or long-term effort on my health. This time last year I weighed 207.4 pounds. Today I weigh 181.2. Total weight loss = 26.2 pounds. I did two simple things…I joined Weight Watchers and I walked 2 miles a day, 6 days a week.

I wanted to lose 47 pounds. I barely lost half of that.

Did I fail? No.

I’d give myself a C- at Weight Watchers. I didn’t track. I didn’t eat Power Foods or drink a ton of water. I did attend the 30 minute weekly meeting and I did weigh in.

I’d give myself an A- at walking. I walked 6 days a week regardless of everything else that was going on. Sometimes I got up early. Sometimes I had to walk on vacation. But I did walk.

Were there other benefits of this fitness makeover? Definitely. My mind is stronger. My body is stronger. My clothes are smaller. My energy is higher (even though most would say that my trademark energy was already off the charts). My blood pressure is insanely good.

One decision moved me in the right direction. One decision and daily perseverance. Before, I was fat. After, I’m healthy. And happy with how walking makes me feel.

This is the formula to use. A decision and daily action steps. Steps that will take you to the life of your dreams.

Don’t worry that Ty Pennington or Stacy and Clinton or Chris Powell aren’t going to show up in your life. You’re not going to win the lottery. Sadly, Santa isn’t real.

You have the power to change. It’s in you. You possess everything you need to produce your own before and after life makeover.

You can create your own amazing life. Step by step.

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The Quest for Perfection


We’re all waiting on something. Until we get that degree. Until the baby gets bigger. Until our Mom isn’t sick. Until we have more money in the bank. We’re all waiting on life to give us the green light, but life isn’t that way. Life is like living in a perpetual yellow signal. Do you go? Do you proceed with caution? Do you stop completely?

The truth is…life’s never going to be perfect. Never. Ever. Ever. It’s like wanting to have your house sparkling and your car clean at the same time. It rarely happens. There is only so much energy to go around and if one is getting it, the other probably isn’t. Life is messy. Raw. Imperfect. And perfectly lovely.

I looked around the house this morning. The laundry’s pretty caught up and the kitchen is clean. I already took the trash out and all I have to do is make the bed. The carpet needs replaced and the outside siding can only make it about one more winter. I don’t even really like this house…so I don’t spend a lot of time tending to it.

But for today, this is where we live.

I’ve lived in some glorious places in my adult life. A mega-mansion. Apartments. Lovely estate homes. A saltbox in the country. I’ve had it all and I didn’t appreciate it. Took it for granted. ‘Til it was gone.

And now I sit in a suburban 3-bedroom raised ranch with crappy carpet and a tiny shower. I rarely spend time updating because I consider it a waste of money. But is it? Isn’t this where I spend my hours and love my family. Isn’t this where I make love to my husband and teach my grandbaby to bake.

It’s not perfect. I’d prefer to be living somewhere else because after all, at 51 aren’t you supposed to have ‘made it’. Aren’t you supposed to know what you want to be? Isn’t the bank account supposed to be bigger? The problems smaller? I’m simply being truthful. I’m going to stop my quest for perfection. I’m going to settle in and make a good meal for tonight. I’ll write around the crappy carpet and maybe even look into having it replaced.

I’ll water my mums on the front stoop and say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this home and the warmth inside it. I might even buy a bouquet of flowers for the kitchen counter. I’m on a quest…it’s simply not for perfection…it’s for loving life.

What’s Your Dream?

Dreams. They’re the big things of life. They’re the ‘write a New York Times Bestseller’ or ‘create a foundation’ or ‘make a million bucks’ kind of stuff. The ‘find my soulmate’ or ‘start my own business‘ or ‘have 6 kids’ kind of dreams. Dreams are BIG. HUGE. And scary.

Most of us don’t reflect on our dreams much because well, after you’ve reached the age of 30 or so, most of them seem too hard. Or we’ve listened to so many people say ‘you can’t do that’ or ‘this happened to her’ or ‘you need a ton of money to be successful’ that we quietly fold our dreams up and tuck them nicely into the deep recesses of our heart.

Oh, there are days when they seem to well up inside us, but most of us quietly tamper them down again and reserve them for shower time and long walks on the beach vacation days. They seem so out there. Unreachable.

We quit working on our dreams before we’ve even started.

We give up on our dreams before we’ve even failed.

We believe destiny is what happens to celebrities and millionaires.

But not us.

It’s not true. It’s far from true.

My next door neighbor desperately wanted a 2nd baby. Nature wasn’t cooperating. She was slogging from doctor to doctor with little hope…or the hope she was given had huge dollar signs attached to it.

But I know down deep in her heart she still wanted that dream. Baby number two.

I was sad. She was heartbroken.

I barely had the words to comfort her.

We moved away and didn’t stay in touch.

A year later I was shopping on New Years Eve and I saw a young woman walking and waving toward me with her husband. My eyes did a double take. It was my dear sweet neighbor with her hubby, 3 year old and not only was she strolling one newborn baby in the stroller, she was pushing TWO.

God gave her twins. One of each. A boy and a girl. I was so overwhelmed with joy I almost hugged her to death.

She just shyly smiled and said…’we relaxed and look what happened.’

But she never gave up on her dream. Now she’s playing zone defense as a young Mom with too little time, too many responsibilities and a life full of love.

Dreams are real. If you can see it in your mind and feel it in your heart, it exists. If you consistently wake up thinking about your dream, it’s because it’s a real desire…not something you made up. God gives us desires for a reason.

He wants us to go DO something with them. To impact someone. To help. To spread joy or inspiration…or maybe God just wants to make us deliriously happy. (He does that you know.)

Dreams come with a price. You may have to give something up to go after your big dream. You might have to be patient and watch the dream unfold over a decade instead of a year. You might have to turn off the TV or give up a few nights of fun to realize your big dream.

Dreams are worth waiting for. Working for. Praying for. Sacrificing for.

My neighbor now drives a mini-van with three carseats in the 2nd seat. She rarely puts on make-up and the dog doesn’t get walked that often. But the dream she stored inside her heart…the one she never quit wanting was real. Is real. In the form of a tiny girl and a tiny boy and a big brother named Tre.

Dreams do come true. What’s yours?

I Am Who I Am…

Too often, life becomes one big pile of mush. We lose ourselves to what others want for us or we spend our life trying to live up to another’s expectations. All this does is leave us empty and bruised.

This is an exercise for every woman. I call it the “I Am Who I Am” exercise.

All you need is a piece of paper. Don’t edit your thoughts. Simply write down what comes out first. Don’t think, do.

“I am who I am. You cannot change me.

I am __________________, ______________________, ____________, __________ and ________________.

I love to __________________ and ____________________.

I despise _______________ and ______________.

It is my mission to _______________ _______ _________________.

I will never rest until I ______________________.”

That’s it. I am. You are. Enough.

Be true. To you.

Where Do You Go When The World’s Falling Apart?


Tonight I heard my daughter say the words I’ve longed for…’I had to call you Mom.”

Her world was falling apart and she had hit the wall…the breaking point where you can no longer see clearly and every single thing you’ve ever done seems futile.

• She’s moving.

• Her husband’s grandfather is dying.

• She’s being challenged at work to learn more and faster than the rest because the Dr.she works for knows she can handle it.

• She saw a lady hit a light pole while texting.

• She has four out of town trips she’s required (in her own mind) to take next year and she’s stressing about the money.

• It’s raining.

• Oh, and she’s moving. I know I already told you this one but it’s the energy sucker that won’t go away.

She can’t imagine how her husband’s grandma is going to live without the man she’s been married to for over half a century. How do you go on when the only life you’ve ever known with the only man you’ve ever loved no longer exists. When you’ve spent your last days caring for someone who is irritable one minute and childlike the next.

You cry your eyes out.

You curl up with the wretched knowledge that life as you knew it is over.

You look up and ask God for a hand.

And then you cry some more until the cleansing of the angels can envelop you or the deep of the night embraces you.

This perfect storm of life is real and in your face.

You can’t run home anymore. You can’t eat a chocolate chip cookie and magically feel better. You can’t pretend it’s not happening because it keeps coming at you.

You’re an adult and this thing called life is teaching. What’s important. What’s not.

What can wait til tomorrow. And what can’t.

Who matters. And who doesn’t.

I didn’t fix anything in our 20 minute phone call. It’s still raining and granddaddy is still just a few hours or days away from Heaven. The Docs expectations are still high and the driver who hit the pole while texting is still dumb.

She’s still moving.

But her world and her insides weren’t. For just a moment, the connection between my dear sweet daughter and me was enough to calm the chaos. It was enough to steady the swells that rose inside her and threatened to overwhelm. Our love was like a rock she could hold on to for strength.

I’m her Mom. And that’s what I do.

Wrap her in my heart and soul for comfort.

Listen.

Love her.

I just got a text ten minutes after our call.

It said “I’m better Mom.” “Thanks.”

And I said, “Good. Me too.”

Why I Prefer to Live Without Booze

I never downed a beer in college.  Beer pong sounds like ping pong with a beer bottle to me.  Jagermeister sounds like a frightening version of Frankenstein.  I’ve never bought my friends a round of drinks or had an alcoholic drink with a friend.  I’ve never even sipped a glass of wine.

That’s right.  I’m square, straight and maybe even a wee bit uptight about alcohol.

My Grandpa died loving Schlitz way too much.  I remember the smell of him as I’d lean over to give him a kiss as a young girl…there were two smells I distinctly remember and they were beer and bologna.

Continue reading “Why I Prefer to Live Without Booze”

Why You Have to Minimize The Monsters in your Head

I just got off an hour and 46 minute phone call with a friend.  Yes, I said 1 hour and 46 minutes.  I don’t think I’ve ever talked on the phone that long to anyone…not my children, not my husband, not even my best friends.  But, this friend has some monsters in her head going on.  And they were BIG ones.

We had to put them to bed.

They were threatening to eat her alive.

They want her time and her life and her heart and her soul and her home and her relationships.

They want all of her.

They want to consume her, to render her unfunctional as a human being.

Continue reading “Why You Have to Minimize The Monsters in your Head”